Tuesday, April 28, 2009

According to Plan

Sometimes I think that too many Christian time management experts consider themselves time managers first and Christians second. In the past year, I have read at least two "how to plan your long-term schedule for maximum effectiveness" articles, written by believers, that failed to even touch on James 4:13-16: "Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.' As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil" (NIV).

Or as Woody Allen put it, "If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans." Although I doubt that God is actually laughing at me at the moment--at least not in a derogatory manner--I don't find it particularly funny that last night's thunderstorms flooded my apartment parking lot and left a two-inch puddle of water in my car, particularly since I had to interrupt today's carefully planned work schedule to bail it out and then arrange for professional water-damage treatment that wasn't in my budget. I do not have an especially good track record when it comes to joyfully accepting life's frustrations as God's means of building my spiritual maturity.

There's some comfort in knowing that God is never caught off guard and that nothing can spoil His plans. I just wish He would give me a few more details on His plans so I could structure my plans accordingly. There are times when I wonder if any kind of human-level planning falls into the category of "evil boasting," perhaps because I have always had an idolatry problem in that area. I loathe disappointment of any sort; and like the alcoholic who can't be trusted to take a single sip of wine, I tend to take even a small amount of prewritten scheduling and turn it into an obsessive drive, unable to stop for a rest or to accept that sometimes doing things "as planned" is impossible. I have trouble understanding--truly grasping from the heart--that God is more interested in molding me into the image of Christ than in seeing me accomplish the maximum level of obviously productive work. Even if that work is good and necessary and intended for His glory.

Actually, we ourselves, as Christians, are God's greatest work and the greatest testimony to His glory. Although I've frequently been one of those people who insist on learning everything the hard way, at least I rarely throw outright tantrums anymore over spoiled plans. Perhaps the most valuable lesson in this area comes from God's words in Is. 55:9: "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."

It's when we become so attached to our plans that we put our ways and thoughts above God's, that planning becomes evil boasting.

As our lives become mazes of schedules,
As we head off each "maybe" we can,
Let us not lose our eyes for God's guidance
In a drive for "according to plan."

Those who boast of their schemes for the future,
Who presume what will happen to scan,
Are those souls who are worshiping idols
In the form of "according to plan."

Only God knows the things that are coming;
There is no mortal woman or man
Who can see one short hour toward the future--
Things may not go according to plan.

But for those who trust Christ and His Spirit,
And the One through Whom all things began,
There need never be fear of the ending--
God is working according to plan!

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